PURE has a good reputation for high-quality DAB radios. We've previously been impressed by their efforts at smaller kitchen-type-radio design. The hi-fi separates market is a different field though, and enthusiasts can be particularly demanding in their performance expectations.
The DRX-702ES is ostensibly the most high-end DAB radio unit we've looked at. With a standard 19-inch chassis, it's designed to stack on your existing separates system -- alongside a poweramp and CD player, for example. To this end, PURE has provided professional-grade output options from the DAB, including S/PDIF and, for an extra £70, balanced XLR outputs.
Within the inherent limitations of current DAB radio broadcasts, the DRX-702ES is equipped to deliver the fidelity of sound that audiophiles demand. Its full-band coverage and 24bit/192kHZ delta-sigma digital audio converter (DAC) circuits suggest that the weakest link should be the broadcast source, not the receiver.
Disappointingly, UK DAB broadcasts barely skulk above a 128Kbps. Even the highest quality station, BBC Radio 3, transmits at a meagre 192Kbps. At the other end of the scale you'll find stations broadcasting as low as 80Kbps. Compare these bit rates to CD at 1411.2Kbps, or the 256Kbps we consider desirable for MP3, and the outlook is depressing for audiophiles. So, do we think buying the PURE Digital DRX-702ES is justifiable even in the face of the UK's current low DAB bit rates?
There's no doubt that the PURE Digital DRX-702ES is an extremely high-end DAB. The thick, brushed-metal fascia, heavy weight and solid chassis are all hallmarks of a well-designed unit. Controls on the front are minimalist and well laid out, with a tuning dial to the right of the bright, clear LCD.
The rear of the DRX-702ES proves the units audiophile appeal. Alongside the traditional gold-plated phono outputs are optical audio outs (S/PDIF), balanced XLRs (optional), RDI and USB ports. The balanced XLR outputs are something we're used to seeing on professional-grade studio equipment. If you're interested in feeding a DAB radio signal to a professional mixing desk and PA, this is the most effective connection to use.
The third pin on XLR connectors balances the signal to reduce noise. Sometimes you'll find XLR inputs on high-end poweramps, but you're extremely unlikely to find them on most home stereos. For this reason, the connection is optional -- the standard DRX-702ES does not ship with it. For domestic use, the S/PDIF offers a superior signal.
Other rear connectors include phono inputs, DAB, FM and AM aerials and a good solid kettle-lead power-input socket. Usefully, this features a plastic drawer which stores a spare fuse. It's little touches like this that quickly warmed us to Pure's approach with this DAB.
As with all DABs, the PURE Digital DRX-702ES autotunes within a few seconds. Provided the external aerials are properly attached you'll find the radio has stored every station available in the UK in a scrollable list. We can't imagine anyone having any problems tuning the unit.